Gospel: Mt 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be brought before him; and, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will he do with them, placing the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. The king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to see me.’ Then the righteous will ask him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and give you food; thirsty, and give you something to drink; or a stranger, and welcome you; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and go to see you?’ The king will answer, ‘Truly I say to you: just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Go, cursed people, out of my sight, into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry, and you did not give me anything to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me into your house; I was naked, and you did not clothe me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ The king will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you: just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into eternal punishment; but the just, to eternal life.”
In the judgment of the sheep and the goats, Jesus is distinguishing sharply among persons who profess to be Christians and claim to belong to him. It is the separation of the hypocrites from the those who actually helped others in their need; of the false claim from the true deed done without fanfare. Jesus is clearly saying that the ultimate mark of an authentic disciple is not his creed, or his faith, or his orthodoxy, but the concern which he shows to those who are in need and helpless. The concrete action of mercy and love is the final proof of transformative faith. Jesus does not ask anyone to present his case or argue his cause. He asks no questions nor requests any evidence. He simply extends to this one group the invitation, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.” Then he explains the basis of his choice. He has simply noted that when they had opportunity to help someone in need, they did it. Nothing more is required. Jesus identifies himself with those in need and suffering. The seriousness of this matter of helping the needy is seen in the severity of the Lord’s words here. “Depart from me you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And let us remember that these are people who honestly think they are sheep or that they have done good deeds. They can point with pride to a moment when they made a profession of belief and are church members in good standing, but by their lack of response to the cries for help that come to them from every side went unnoticed. They simply did not care.
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